The Poverty Of The American Political Theater Of The Absurd

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds

The Poverty Of Our Political Theater Of The Absurd  

The public sphere has been effectively stripped of everything but corny, irritatingly hammy political theater.

All we have left in the U.S. is a deeply impoverishing Political Theater of the Absurd. Policy, theory and governance have all been reduced to competing stage performances in the Theater of the Absurd. The actors are transparently given to farcical overacting in exaggerated dramas drained of meaning; they proceed through the cliched motions as if the audience hadn't seen the same charades overplayed dozens of times before.

"Government shutdown" and "debt ceiling" may have engaged audiences starved for entertainment in a bygone age, but now they exemplify a theater that is so impoverished it can only re-stage tired formulaic dramas with a savage appetite for incompetence and buffoonery.

The poverty of this substitution of theater for actual ideas is best displayed by ObamaCare. The entire complex edifice of ObamaCare is not an expression of policy--it is simply the perfection of state complicity with a private cartel that increases its share of the national income regardless of which set of bad actors are on stage.

As for the alternative "policy," it is nothing but a reversion to the pre-ObamaCare cartel-state arrangement that artlessly combines gross injustice, insensitivity to cost and insane incentives for fraud, skimming, defensive medicine and the pursuit of national chronic ill health as the most profitable state of existence.

That these two variations on state-cartel predation pass for "policy" is a clear indication of the absolute impoverishment of American political/social/economic ideas. We are adrift in a political order that glorifies and rewards overacted farce and punishes policy grounded in actual ideas rather than the theatrical trends of the day.

The public sphere has been effectively stripped of everything but corny, irritatingly hammy political theater. The players, bereft of talent and inspiration, chosen for their blind obedience to those benefiting from the eradication of ideas and the replaying of tiresome charades, are blind to the poverty of their performance and political theatrics.

Will the audience ever tire of this cheesy Theater of the Absurd? It seems the appetite of the American public for this sort of play-acting entertainment is essentially bottomless. As a result, so too is our poverty.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
U4 eee aaa's picture

You can tell you are near the end by the quality of the bread and the quality of the circuses

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

That's why the audience won't tire of the Theater of the Absurd. It's a transitory phase in the descent. The next level is Saturday morning cartoons.

Bhoaner: "Rabbit season!"

Reid: "Duck season!"

Repeat ad nauseam.

SWRichmond's picture

Mr. Smith,

Excellent, succinct, and spot-on.  Everyone can remember those banana republics we in the US used to laugh at.  Now we are one.

DaddyO's picture

Cost of loaf of Bread - 1929 ~ $.10 = 1 Mercury Dime

Cost of loaf of Bread - 2013 ~ $1.59 = 1 Mercury Dime

Cost of Circus Ticket - 1929 ~ $.25 = 1 Standing Liberty Quarter

Cost of Circus Ticket - 2013 ~ $20.00 = 1 Standing Liberty Quarter

Things haven't changed much in the theater of the absured from a fiat perspective...


edit: Mike Maloney's addage about PM's always giving an accounting of fiat seems to be holding true, eh?!?

Seize Mars's picture

Good data. Amazing they have hoodwinked so many for so long.

SWRichmond's picture

As another entry to the "Theater of the absurd" I would like to add this: while in coastal Virginia in August I happened upon the local newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot, which featured this banner headline on 22 August (recalll the events of that period): "Surveillance Court Says NSA Misled It".  While the casual observer might not think too much about this, being casual, the thinking person's brain reacts at first with anger, then a humerous sort of sadness.

  1. What, pray, are we the untrustworthy unwashed masses supposed to do about it when the super-secret court tells us it is being lied to by the super-secret spooks, about whose activities we are allowed to know nothing?
  2. Under these circumstances, how can we tell who is lying?
  3. Is this what now passes for investigative journalism?  Repeating, without thought or questioning, the official line?
  4. Finally one realizes just how absurd the whole situation is; then, there is no other sane reaction than to laugh.

I can't really believe the "newspaper" costs money.  They should pay us to use it, as it is of more value to them than it is to us.

whstlblwr's picture

People here can make a difference. The status quo wants you to give up and be apathetic, the last thing they want is the ZH crowd running, winning and taking over.

knukles's picture

You know, if all the unemployed people in this country would get a job then all those government employees at the welfare offices would loose theirs.

Oh wait....

tenpanhandle's picture

they could and would use free market tactics to remedy that.  If supply of unemployment goes down they would increase price (pay higher benifits) and thusly, demand would reappear.

daveO's picture

Our local paper has been useless since Media General bought it out in the 90's. It's just a propaganda machine. I cancelled it back in the pre-internet days because nothing was better than BS. 

David Fry's picture

The thing is we no longer teach, learn, remember or respect authentic history.

thatthingcanfly's picture


Bad data. Check your math.

DaddyO's picture

You're right, I mistook the spot price of silver on the Standing liberty for the coin value so it'll take 5 standing liberty quarters to get you in the circus today.

Anyway, my thought was how far down the rabbit hole we've fallen as a society and country.

Back in 1929, society was much more civil and saw the circus as a great diversion from the hardwork of their mostly agrarian lifestyle of survival.

Today, we have JIT WalMart chicom goods to placate our sense of loss and bewilderment.

This is why the FSA has proliferated!

Growing up in the early sixties, we viewed anyone on welfare as lazy and slothful and deserving of our contempt.

What the hell happened?


El Vaquero's picture

"What the hell happened?"


Bankers and apathy leads to bread and circuses?  Just a guess, because I'm wondering the same thing myself. 

Father Lucifer's picture

I'd go back to the 60's in a heartbeat.

Debt-Penitent's picture

I'd go back to the 60's in a heartbeat.




We've had that conversation before.  You don't just GET a do-over.

The question is:

If you could go-back and  get 30 years of youth but had to give up 30 years of knowledge.  To gain 30 years of naivety.


Never.  I wouldn't at least.

"On to the truck you go now.  We know it's a better place because no one ever comes back".


Use what you've learned.

Svendblaaskaeg's picture

"..What the hell happened?.."

The brave new world is what happened me think, where all men are paid for existing (not sustainable) and no man must pay for his sins (not sustainable)

Rudyard Kipling - 1919

Manthong's picture

"..What the hell happened?.."

90 years of secular progressive “education”.. empirical, logical positivists.. new Soviet Union as model from the early 1920’s ..

Must do thing more cleverly, progressive, modern,  industrial, proletariat, collectivized and SECULAR.

Nuclear family is soo.. um.. agrarian..  and too prone to have faith in God rather than the State.

McCarthy tried to weed it out in the 1950’s…

Beatniks to hippies and the Ivy League Leaders to milk them all.. .the set-up for what is to come.. they have been running things. Hell, a lot of them WERE beatniks and hippies (or revolutionaries).

Homosexual marriage and adoption.. gay “pride”.

NAMBLA guy as “School Safety” Czar

Teen sexual awareness/identity in middle school

Sex education in Kindergarten (Google it)

They are lowering the age of the target population.

When people lose faith in their ability to build a stable environment, they lose it all.

Who is left to rely on…the State (?)..

Good luck with that.

DaddyO's picture

Pretty well summed up, I'd say...

And all I wanted to do was pursue life, liberty and happiness!


GMadScientist's picture

Cost of Circus Ticket - 1929 ~ $.25 = 41% of one hour at the average hourly rate

Cost of Circus Ticket - 2013 ~ $20.00 = 83% of one hour at the average hourly rate


"Things haven't changed much..."

Care to try again, Chucklehead?

DaddyO's picture

...from a fiat perspective there professor?

The point being that PM's will always give an accounting of the debased fiat.

Precious Metals, #WINNING!


tenpanhandle's picture

this can be perfectly explained by the use of "hedonics".  In todays circuses, the clowns are much better and trickier.  Just take Obama as an example.

Deacon Frost's picture

Marius Rome and the Social Revolution (145-78 BC)

The triumphant aristocracy devoted its subtlest intelligence to undoing the constructive, rather than the demagogic, elements in legislation. It allowed the corn dole to stand as an insurance against revolution.

The masses in the capitol raised no objection; they had decided that to eat state corn in the city (Rome) was better than to sweat on the land or toil in pioneer colonies. Sloth combined with superstition… Wealth mounted but did not spread…”The condition of the poor became worse than before…the plebeians lost everything.


From Will Durant’s “Caesar and Christ” 1944

Seize Mars's picture

Hm, how oddly familiar that narrative seems.

Deacon Frost's picture

Do not forget, this set the stage for the rise of Julius Caesar, and to become ‘dictator in perpetuo’.

Manthong's picture

Republic to despotic Empire..

Cue Caligula.

GMadScientist's picture

Funding the armament of legions of Capite censi was orders of magnitude more expensive than the grain dole and a much more relevant turn toward Empire.


tenpanhandle's picture

"corn dole" now replaced with "corn hole".

akak's picture

Corn being a New World crop, I find it hard to believe that they were eating it in ancient Rome.

Manthong's picture

He likely meant wheat for the mainstay bread (flat, round loaves made of emmer - a cereal grain closely related to wheat) to go with the circuses.

But I am sure they would not have minded corn tortillas.

Good catch on the New World crop thing, though.


akak's picture

Leave it to the Brits to use an ambiguous if not misleading word ("corn") where a clear and unambiguous one ("grain") would do.  Just as they refuse to distinguish between "holidays" (public events) and "vacations" (personal time off), or "dessert" (general term) and "pudding" (a specific term for one kind of dessert).

Nobody fucks up the English language like the English.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

So true akak, I was immensely pissed Robert Graves used "corn" instead of "grain" in his translations he used to write his historical novel I Claudius. Even as a teenager I knew there was no way they were importing corn from Egypt. It's as if the British get a free pass in these areas. Their mispronounciation of French words go down as "Anglicizing". WTF? In my book it's just wrong. But I guess I need to lighten up and not be such a hard ass. Wat u tink?


akak's picture

No, sorry, I cannot cut them any slack.

It's almost as if the Brits go out of their way to purposely mispronounce words, particularly those of foreign origin, and most particularly those with the vowel written as "a" in most European languages, the sound usually written as "ah", at least by Americans. They will go to ANY LENGTH to avoid this vowel in English words adopted from other languages, for incomprehensible reasons known only to them.  Even so simple a word as "Ra" (the ancient Egyptian sun god), "Rah", they will purposely mispronounce as "Ray".  Then there is  "pasta" pronounced as "PASS-ta" (unless it precedes a word beginning with a vowel, it which case it is even more mysteriously pronounced "PASS-ter"), and the outrageous and mangled monstrosity of what they do to the word "jaguar", which I cannot even duplicate.

It just makes me SO MAD!!!

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Good! Your conviction has renewed my spirit. I guess going though 2 teenagers texting and butchering the English language had damped my resolve. Fortunately, you have not been so tainted. I was raised by an English major mom who was an investigative reporter for the SF Chronicle and the editor of a small Mill Valley newspaper. My English was expected to be spot on even though it is not my forte. I spent a weekend grounded for using a past participle incorrectly, misspelling " admonish" and mispronouncing the word "beret". At least I didn't get the strap! ;-)


akak's picture

Well, my father was a teacher, and both he and my mother were rather strict with our use of language --- there was no "runnin' " or "sittin' " in OUR house, a "picture" was NOT a "pitcher", sentences did NOT end in prepositions, and God help you if the word "ain't" ever made an appearance!

Although strangely, my mother to this day still pronounces the word "milk" as "melk", despite our constant needling of her on that score every single time she has ever said it.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Ending a sentence with a preposition! Dear God Man.That is an action of which I indignantly will not put! ;-)

Your head must explode when you visit Detroit take in a few street conversations. There must be quite a few drinks involved.


akak's picture

Oh Miffed, nowadays my head explodes pretty much on a daily if not an hourly basis, no matter where I might happen to find myself.

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

Well, may I kindly recommend more sexual harassment of oneself and fine wine? It seems to work for me.

Ok, everyday I pledge to raise the quality of my postings and not descend into the basest, most iniquitous of comments. Once again, I succumb to temptation and besmirch myself as well as ZH. I will banish myself to the corner now and liberally apply the scourge. ;-)


Manthong's picture

My peeve is the adoption of a whole new month - Feb-yew-airy.

But go pull out ur hair when u get a txt msg like this from the boss.

akak's picture

I'm still trying to figure out what 'grosheries' are.

g'kar's picture

That's how the FSA spells free shit.

Manthong's picture

I would axe a young, open-minded and progressive teacher, but it seems as if many of them are otherwise occupied nowadays.

g'kar's picture

Makes you wonder why those hotties need to go that route...


How about this video:

Miffed Microbiologist's picture

My last comment to an individual about there being an "r" in February I got " well, duh, it's like by the y.


bilejones's picture

Ah, just as in 1984, fewer simpler words make for fewer simpler thoughts, suitable for the far simpler minds.

Deacon Frost's picture

Yes akak, this is a misnomer by historians meant to refer to grains in general.

akak's picture

Perhaps it is my US 'american' citizenism showing, but until this afternoon (and after a bit of internet investigation) I never realized that any English speaker used the word "corn" in any sense other than as a synonym for "maize".

bilejones's picture

Go to a government school, did you?

akak's picture

Yes, but my ignorance in this case is more likely due to the fact that I did not grow up or go to school in the nation which believes that too many surveillance cameras are never enough.

bilejones's picture

You've got it backwards.

"Corn" was always the tern used for whatever grain was used to make the local bread.- the verb "to corn" means to granulate- hence "corning gunpowder", peppercorn barley-corn reflect this idea of a small granular object.

The term corn was imported into the America's and applied to Maize, the corn from which the natives made their bread.

Happy to help.